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(USA) A Father's Quest

The case of Arianas Campos-Reese and his son Tyberius illustrates what's wrong with family court.

Should fathers cast aside in service of the goal of maintaining the relationship between mothers and their children simply accept their fate and move on?
For more than two years, the 27-year-old father has been trying to prove his case for full custody in family court. He's got a record of steady employment, a stable home, and a meticulously kept paper trail of the events of the last 29 months. He appears in family court so often that the clerks know him by name. Other fathers he sees there tell him to just pay his child support and move on. They are tired, broken men who are almost always older than him and have learned the hard way that fathers rarely win in court.

A Father's Quest

East Bay Express
13 January 2010

A Father's Quest
The case of Arianas Campos-Reese and his son Tyberius illustrates what's wrong with family court.

By Erin Gilmore

On October 10, 2009, the mother of Tyberius Campos-Reese was arrested for prostitution in Hayward. Four days later, his father, Arianas Campos-Reese, filed for sole legal and physical custody of Tyberius. But the court denied his request on the very next day, and on October 16 Arianas was forced to return three-year-old Tyberius to his mother's care, a weekly exchange that can now happen only at the Hayward police station.

Arianas lives for Thursdays and Fridays. Those are the days of the week that he gets to make Tyberius dinner, take him to the movies, and tuck him in for the night. He's got two days each week to rest easy with the knowledge that his son is safe under his eye. The other five days of the week, he worries.

For more than two years, the 27-year-old father has been trying to prove his case for full custody in family court. He's got a record of steady employment, a stable home, and a meticulously kept paper trail of the events of the last 29 months. He appears in family court so often that the clerks know him by name. Other fathers he sees there tell him to just pay his child support and move on. They are tired, broken men who are almost always older than him and have learned the hard way that fathers rarely win in court.

Should fathers cast aside in service of the goal of maintaining the relationship between mothers and their children simply accept their fate and move on?

Arianas is not the kind of father who can fathom "moving on" from his son. His life revolves around Tyberius. With his XXL frame and tightly braided cornrows, he doesn't appear to be the type of guy who'd cradle his son's small body as delicately as he'd handle a blown-glass egg. But when he glances at Tyberius, the way his eyes melt at the corners give him away. Arianas knows that Tyberius' favorite flavor of ice cream is strawberry, and that he loves watching Thomas the Tank Engine but is afraid of trains in real life. He cherishes those details as fiercely as he guards his son's safety.

The father's deep-seated fear for his son's safety has driven him to plead with the court, argue with the court, and ultimately stand in open defiance of the court's orders when he felt that he had no other choice.

"No one wants to acknowledge that a single, biracial man who's this passionate about his child might be on to something," Arianas said. "How does this happen? How many chances does a woman get to show she's an unfit mother?"

In the Alameda County Family Court system, she can get plenty. The October 15 hearing at which Tenesha Self once again received primary custody of her son was merely her latest chance in a string of escalating incidents that have lasted almost as long as her young son's life.

Arianas says he tried to work things out when, in 2007, the child's mother began staying out all night and receiving strange phone calls. When he discovered that the 23-year-old Self was seeing another man, he says he hoped they could remain civil for the sake of their son.

But when his former fiance left with Tyberius one day in July 2007 and didn't return, Arianas panicked. He didn't trust Self's new boyfriend, but without solid proof that something was wrong, he could only wait for Self to come home. Two days later, she returned with Tyberius, but in the meantime, Arianas had stopped trusting the mother of his child.

So the couple separated, and thus began a saga of disputes involving the particulars of shared custody. Arianas filed a motion in family court for full custody of Tyberius. Police records show that Self dropped out of sight with Tyberius twice more, once for an entire week. Arianas said he began receiving threats over the phone. Accusations flew between the parents that the other was incapable of providing a good home for their son. Throughout it all, Arianas remained certain that the cards would fall his way once the issue was resolved in court.

But that hasn't happened.

To Mike McCormick, the executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, this situation is all too familiar. "The attitude of the court toward fathers is 'You don't know it yet, but the court is going to manage your relationship with your child,'" he said. "And by that they mean that the mother will by and large retain custody of her child, without much or any consideration of her actions that may contrast with her ability to parent. … Even if he is the better parent, because he is the father he has to be much, much, much, much better to even be considered equal to the mother of his child."

McCormick said there's a point in some custody disputes at which action is necessary. He calls that moment "the throw-up threshold." But in the case involving Tyberius Campos-Reese, neglect, dishonesty, gunplay, and prostitution haven't been enough to cross the threshold.

September 13, 2007

At the estranged couple's first court date at the Hayward Hall of Justice, Self, who declined to comment for this story, was a no-show. The court date was re-assigned to November 15, when she and Arianas met with a family mediator.

Family mediators are assigned by the court to assist parents whenever custody, visitation, or guardianship issues arise. The mediator is usually a family court counselor whose stated goal is to help negotiate a mutually agreeable plan for the child. Arianas recalled being eager to explain his situation to the mediator.

The first mediation report, prepared on November 17, 2007 by counselor Alicia Howard, stretched over five pages and detailed Arianas' concerns about Self's ability to parent. The report noted that Self had allowed Arianas to care for Tyberius almost exclusively during September, and recommended that Self receive just one day and night per week of visitation time with her son. Howard questioned the mother's attachment to Tyberius, while noting that the parents' work schedules and the distance between their homes were the main reasons that an equal custody split wasn't recommended.

However, Commissioner Elizabeth Hendrickson reviewed the report and disregarded Howard's recommendation, assigning joint legal and physical custody rights to the parents. Basing her decision on the work schedule of both parents, she gave Self custody Tuesday night through Friday morning, with Arianas retaining custody the rest of the week.

Alameda County Family Law Court serves the residents of fourteen cities and a population of almost 1.5 million. Every year its judges hear thousands of custody cases in a system so overcrowded that many officials share the priority of clearing the docket as swiftly as possible. In the county's system, a judge looks to the reports of mediators and typically takes their word as gospel. But that didn't happen in the case of Tyberius Campos-Reese. In fact, to Arianas, the judge seemed to be working against his interests from the very moment he first walked into family court.

Critics of the court say that sort of thing happens all too often. "The court isn't getting it right," said Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, an outspoken advocate for family court reform. "In fact, 80 percent of the time they get it wrong."

Steele isn't just pulling that number out of thin air. A nationwide council of judges examined the workings of family court and support the statistic that 70 to 80 percent of children at the center of contested cases in family court are placed with an abusing parent. And once the court has made one parent the primary custody holder, that parent carries a strong set of legal presumptions that are very difficult to overturn.

January 9, 2008

Joint custody of Tyberius worked out for less than six months. When a shooting occurred outside Arianas' Oakland home following a rocky January 9 custody exchange between the parents, the father went into defense mode. He reported the shooting to police, but with nothing other than his suspicions to go on, Arianas decided that moving to a safer neighborhood in Richmond was the best thing he could do to protect Tyberius.

Despite such drama, Arianas said he and Self tentatively got along between January and May 2008. They'd both abided by the rules of the joint custody agreement and had even made plans to go on a family trip to the zoo. But then, in early May, Self lost her job, and things started sliding downhill.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Arianas called Self's cell phone and her boyfriend picked up. According to his subsequent statement to police, Arianas could hear Tyberius screaming and Self laughing in the background, and he became sick with worry about his son. His fear took him straight to her doorstep, he recalls, but Self wouldn't open the door. So Arianas left and sent the police to her house to check up on his son's welfare. During the three hours it took for the police to confirm that Tyberius was okay, Arianas received a text message from Self that read "You're never going to see your b@stard son again."

Two days later, when it was time for their exchange of custody, Arianas told police that Self didn't appear at the agreed-upon meeting place. The police report shows that officers contacted Self and asked her why she wasn't complying with the terms of the custody agreement, but after that Arianas was on his own.

Arianas said he spent a frustrating day getting the runaround from police, who by that point were tired of his calls. First they left on another call and promised to return. But when they did return, he was told that his court-issued custody order was invalid because it didn't have a state seal. After Arianas got a state seal and called the police back, he was then told that only the department's civil division handles custody issues. He said he kept calling and even drove to Hilltop Mall hoping to find an officer to talk to. Finally, at 6 p.m. on Friday, the police agreed to accompany Arianas to Self's home. At that point, she had been in violation of the court order for almost twelve hours. Self argued with the police officers who came to her door and was led away in handcuffs.

When the police brought Tyberius out of the house, Arianas saw that all of the hair on his seventeen-month-old son's head had been shaved off. "Coming at the end of that day, seeing him like that was hard to take," Arianas recalled. "We had an agreement not to cut his hair, and I knew she had done it just to spite me. A haircut is a scary thing for a baby, and he had nicks and cuts on his head. I was so afraid that something worse was going to happen."

The following Monday, Arianas filed once again for full custody.

May 13, 2008

As Arianas waited to hear back about his petition, Self's time with Tyberius began on Tuesday evening. Arianas said he requested in advance that the police be present at his home for the child's transfer. Because of the incident the previous week, the police had advised Arianas to request their presence whenever he and Self met to exchange Tyberius. When the police did not arrive on time for the standby, Arianas kept Tyberius inside the house with his mother, while he waited outside. Self also arrived late, but even so, the police had still not appeared by the time she got there. When she arrived, Arianas again called the police again and waited outside his home with her.

Arianas recalls standing outside the house, bickering with Self as they awaited the police. Meanwhile, according to the police report, Arianas' mother called 911 to ask where the police were. Records show that Self also called 911 to ask the same question.

Self's boyfriend, Keith Andre Dixon, evidently had been sitting in her car the whole time. Arianas told police that Dixon got out of the car and started walking toward them in the dark. "He gets out of the car and starts yelling things  'Your baby was sitting on my lap last week; I'm the new father now'  things like that," Arianas recounted in a police report filed later that day. "We're arguing, and next thing I know I hear a gun click."

Records show that Arianas told police that Dixon was standing next to Self, about ten feet away from Arianas, when he aimed a 9 mm Luger and started shooting. A mixture of scorn and relief still catches in Arianas' throat as he remembers how Dixon somehow missed him, then got into Self's green 1999 Honda Civic and drove away with her.

Arianas was halfway into his house to see if a stray bullet had hit his son or his mother when a squad car pulled up, according to the police report. They had literally passed the Honda on the way down the street. Arianas said he gave them all the information they needed  the car Dixon had been driving, descriptions of Self and Dixon. But he says that the officers never interviewed his mother or entered his home to check on the welfare of his son. Even though Self's 911 call placed her at the scene, Arianas was dismayed that they didn't seek her out for a statement or track down Dixon.

The bullets that had whizzed past the father's ears while his son's mother stood by and watched had reignited his determination to stand his ground. So one day after the shooting, Arianas returned to court with the police report about the incident and temporarily won full custody until a new court date on June 2. At the next mediation session, Arianas was determined to see that Self's custody be restricted. He felt that she had been a participant in an incident that had directly threatened his life, and to him, it suggested that Tyberius might one day end up in danger as well. Arianas requested that Self receive a psychological exam and be prohibited from seeing Tyberius except in the presence of a county employee.

May 29, 2008

The report by court-appointed mediator James Fiero described the shooting, along with the charges against Self of resisting arrest and violation of a court order. As both parents stood again in front of Commissioner Hendrickson four days later, on June 2, she read the mediator's report that concluded that "the mediator is not at this time inclined to support the father's varied requests. … The information presented does not appear to indicate that either parent has been delinquent in their care of Tyberius."

Arianas' nightmare was unfolding before his eyes. "I was standing there crying, telling them about the shooting, my ex was standing there with a blank look on her face, and it just seemed like the judge wasn't listening," he said. "They were saying there was no reason why I should get full custody. At that point, the courts were telling me to hand my son over to an unsafe and dangerous environment. I couldn't see myself giving my son to a person who might bring guns around him."

But a parent's fear is not enough evidence to prompt a family court judge into action. This is the crux of the court's worst problem; unless abuse has occurred, most judges turn away.

"One hour in mediation is not sufficient to sort out what's in the best interests of the child," said Kathleen Russell, of the Center for Judicial Excellence, who has worked with hundreds of parents who have faced similar stalemates. "There needs to be more adequate time and accountability to fix this crisis in our court system. Parents need more information; a lot of the time they have no idea that their hour with the mediator could end up being the most important hour of their life."

After the judge's last ruling, Arianas felt out of choices. He had followed all the rules, but was still being forced to place his son in a potentially unsafe situation. He was sick of seeing no results come from his efforts to comply with court process. So he made what he now realizes was a major mistake.

For the next five months, he openly defied the joint custody order by keeping Tyberius under his care full-time. He returned to mediation and appeared in front of Commissioner Hendrickson several more times, repeatedly stating his concerns about the shooting and the welfare of his son. And several times, he received visits from patrol officers who informed him that he was violating a court order, but then took no action after Arianas explained that his case involved an ongoing investigation concerning the shooting and custody rights.

"From the day after the shooting, I was on Richmond Police Detective Timothy Gray, and his Sergeant Brian Dickerson, calling them, giving them every bit of information I could gather," Arianas recalled. "My focus was to keep my son away from a potentially dangerous situation."

In a third mediation report by Olga Paredes that harshly criticized both parents as immature, reactive, and lacking sound judgment, the mediator nonetheless opined that "the child may actually be better off in Mr. Campos-Reese's care" and recommended temporary physical custody remain with Arianas until the investigation of the shooting was completed. But, with no explanation required, Commissioner Hendrickson again made the rare move of overruling the mediator's recommendation and reinstated joint custody on July 3 and again on August 31.

Commissioner Hendrickson declined to comment for this story, noting that no judge or commissioner can publicly comment on cases over which they are presiding. However, litigants have the right to ask any court to render a "statement of decision," which is intended to serve as an explanation of sorts. When Arianas pleaded for a simple explanation of Commissioner Hendrickson's decision-making process, he was dismissed.

Russell likens the general lack of accountability to the Catholic Church pedophile scandal. "This problem is system-wide," she said. "There is a total lack of any culture in which authority can be questioned. There is no accountability for the players involved, and it's easy for a number of things to overrule sound decision making."

Stories such as this are prime examples of what County Supervisor Steele calls court-sanctioned child abuse. "This is the toughest court in the world because the secrets of a family are never black and white," she said. "But the courts need to start articulating their decisions; they can't just say, 'You're denied.' There needs to be accountability in our court system."

Steele is gathering a group of parents in situations similar to Arianas' to create a critical voice. She also is pushing to create a council of three high-powered figures in the court system to oversee difficult custody cases and be granted the power to make the court take a step back.

Without any system of judicial checks and balances in place, Arianas can only speculate that he faces racial discrimination, a built-in bias against fathers, or that the commissioner simply does not believe him.

However, Glenn Sacks, the executive director of the advocacy group Fathers & Families, one of the country's leading voices for family court reform, cautions that race is often less relevant than people suspect. "There's really no race in family court," he said. "Everyone gets raked over the coals. We see this all the time, the stereotypes in the media about black fathers running out on their children, and there are certainly irresponsible fathers out there. But a hell of a lot of black fathers make an effort to be fathers for their kids. The problem is that the whole system is against them."

October 2, 2008

Arianas appeared in court again to repeat his plea that he receive temporary full custody of Tyberius until completion of the shooting investigation. Instead, he was placed in handcuffs, strip searched, and sent to a holding cell at the Hayward Courthouse. Child Abduction Unit inspector Rick Monge met with Arianas after he was taken into custody, and waved a charge of felony child abduction in his face. But Monge also offered Arianas a deal, and told him that things wouldn't have to go that far if he gave up Tyberius immediately. He was then sent to Santa Rita Jail for the night for violating a court-ordered custody agreement.

The morning after his first-ever night in jail, Arianas asked if the deal was still available. He felt backed into a corner.

"As a father, I only get one chance to mess up," he said. "If I got charged with a felony, I'd never see my son again. They forced me to give him up, to hand him over to someone who wasn't taking care of him. It was the most horrible experience of my life."

In the meantime, Self was granted full custody.

Arianas did not see Tyberius for two months. As his son's second birthday passed by, Arianas threw himself into finding some way to regain custody. Family attorneys wouldn't take his case because of the ongoing criminal shooting investigation. Criminal attorneys wouldn't listen to him because his case came from family court. The attorneys who were willing to help asked for thousands of dollars in retainers.

"I work full-time, nights and weekends as a security guard," said Arianas. "But I still don't have money for a retainer. So I called everyone I could think of for help. I asked "7 On Your Side" to take on my story; I wrote a letter to the office of Jerry Brown that included every police and mediation report I had. I talked to one attorney who was referred by Bay Area Legal Aid; he said he wouldn't take my case because he did too much business with Elizabeth Hendrickson and he didn't want to make her mad."

Sacks believes that what Arianas really needed was a good attorney who could go in and kick some butt. "One of the things we want to do with Fathers & Families is set up a legal fund for fathers in situations like this," he said. "What we need are funds to help people like Arianas, but those funds just don't exist yet."

Russell agrees that such a need exists. "Eighty percent of litigants in California are self-represented," Russell said. "It's a huge crisis that people are having to conduct their own trials and become law students to seek justice. Many of those who can afford attorneys are preyed upon by the system. I speak with parents every day who have spent thousands, and hundreds of thousands, of dollars in court fighting for their child. And, for whatever reason, the parent that is more of a danger is the one that the child most often ends up with."

And so, Arianas once again represented himself on December 8 as he stood in front of Commissioner Hendrickson. The judge told him that threatening to bring charges against him had been a way to get his attention. She then reinstated her previous ruling, but granted Self custody of Tyberius five days per week. Arianas was assigned the other two days.

"It felt like they were punishing me for being a vigilante," Arianas said. "They told me that I couldn't use the shooting as a reason to keep my son. But it's the shooting that made me fear for my son's life. It was the shooting that they were still failing to investigate."

January 25, 2009

Richmond Detective Timothy Gray appeared in court and stated that despite several interviews with Self about the shooting, she had not been honest with him. In fact, she stated that she was unaware of any shooting or incident on May 13. But the police report stated that Dixon had confirmed his relationship with Self, which directly contradicted her statement. It was revealed that Dixon had recently been convicted of unrelated firearm and drug charges, and was serving time in jail.

Arianas was finally allowed to testify about the shooting in April 2009. He picked Dixon out of a police lineup, and statements were taken from Arianas' mother and a neighbor who had witnessed the shooting. Twelve months after the fact, Dixon was charged with and convicted of shooting at an inhabited dwelling  not attempted murder, not child endangerment. Self was never questioned or asked to testify about the investigation. Meanwhile, in August 2009, Dixon was released on time served.

Dixon maintains that he has had no contact with Self, Arianas, or their son since that time. "Everything is over and done with between me and him," Dixon said. "I've stayed away from her and her kid since I got out of jail. Every time he says something about me, I've got my probation officer calling me and asking what's going on. There's nothing going on anymore, period."

As for Self, she has never made an effort to obtain full custody of Tyberius. During multiple requests for an interview for this story, she declined to discuss her custody case or arrest record. Her sole comment was "F@ck you and your newspaper. You, your newspaper, and my child's father can kiss my ass and go to hell!"

October 15, 2009

While looking for information to support his court case that fall, Arianas discovered in public records that Self had been picked up in Stanislaus County and cited for loitering with intent of prostitution on May 19, 2009. Her only other citation on record before that date was a ticket for driving with Tyberius unsecured in a car seat. But those points counted solely as circumstantial evidence until October, when Arianas found more evidence documenting the mother's history of prostitution: the October 10 arrest in Hayward for prostitution.

After Arianas' emergency motion for full custody was denied on October 15, a hearing date of November 24 was scheduled. He and Self were meant to attend a mediation session on the day of the hearing but, with no mediators available, the couple went straight into court.

A frustrated atmosphere pervaded Commissioner Hendrickson's courtroom as Arianas and Self waited to be heard. Arianas had Self's arrest record in hand, which documented the two prostitution-related charges. He had documentation of her lying in court. Her unemployment had stretched on over a year. She had a proven association with a known felon. Her address was unknown. Meanwhile, Arianas was ready to repeat that he had steady employment, a clean criminal record, and a stable home to provide for his son.

But after a cursory look at the paperwork, Commissioner Hendrickson told Arianas and Self that she sees mothers and fathers every day who do things that she doesn't think are morally right, but that alone wouldn't make her change their custody agreement. She informed Arianas that, if he didn't like her decision, he could leave.

So despite all the facts, and all the events that preceded them, full or even equal custody of Tyberius still hangs just out of reach for Arianas. He wishes that he could get somewhere, anywhere, in this process, even if it was just a simple shift in joint custody to award him more time with his son. Instead, Arianas continues to hand Tyberius over to Self five days per week at the Hayward police station. He tries to believe that the tables will eventually turn in his favor, and tries not to let his worries consume him.

"The whole Alameda Family Court System is a joke," Arianas said. "This system is not operating in the best interests of the child. I've heard Commissioner Hendrickson tell other men they can't keep coming into her courtroom and filing. Why not? It's her job to hear these cases. She doesn't seem to understand that I'll keep fighting for my son forever."

(USA) A Father's Quest - Comments

This is an excellent article that shows the injustices fathers face witin the court system. It is so sad that officers of the court are so blinded by their own self-righteous views and not the facts, right or wrong. There is no gray line when children are involved and their safety is involved. Erin Gilmore did a fantastic job of showing one father's journey that sheds light on the unfair judicial system. This article was engaging and provocative; Just one father's plight for a better life for his son.


Whoa! What a story! Gripping, compelling stuff no matter how you might interpret the facts. The Express and this reporter hit another one out of the park. Thanks.

Posted by on January 12, 2010 at 9:37 PM

  This is an excellent article that shows the injustices fathers face witin the court system. It is so sad that officers of the court are so blinded by their own self-righteous views and not the facts, right or wrong. There is no gray line when children are involved and their safety is involved. Erin Gilmore did a fantastic job of showing one father's journey that sheds light on the unfair judicial system. This article was engaging and provocative; Just one father's plight for a better life for his son.

Posted by motivated_mommy on January 12, 2010 at 10:46 PM

  This is completely outrageous! What can we, the people, do to reign in (or even throw out) such out-of-touch, misguided, ideological judges? Naively, I thought the days of automatic preference to the biological mother were over, that the courts had become more enlightened in the last 20 years. I'm so sad to find out I was wrong. No, I'm not just sad; I'm sickened, infuriated, and ready to do battle for the rights of good parents who are getting the run-around! Fathers & Families has just been added to my list of organizations to support whenever possible; this HAS to change, and it can't happen too soon!

Posted by ChristinaL30 on January 13, 2010 at 2:23 AM

  What a riveting and horrifying story. Erin Gilmore gives voice to an unheard saga full of frustration, grief and above all love. It is heart rending to imagine people playing such a dangerous tug-o'-war with a child. With little or no support for either parent, or for their beautiful son, it is frightening to imagine what cycles we are perpetuating through our "justice" system. The good news is that little boy is beloved. Lets hope love wins in the end.

Posted by bjtb on January 13, 2010 at 9:03 AM

  Erin Gilmore did a fine job exposing the dysfunction of family court here, which is not unique to Alameda County and is happening all over America and beyond.

But she does a HUGE disservice to the tens if not hundreds of thousands of mothers who are losing custody of their children to abusive fathers, which dozens of peer-reviewed research studies are overwhelmingly clear on. By quoting only fathers rights organizations spewing about how Dads are being victimized and how Moms are being favored, Gilmore plays right into the deep-seated sexism that the media has repeatedly shown on this issue. Just in the past 3 weeks, 20/20, Nightline and NBC Dateline have ALL done major stories about Dads losing custody, but when literally thousands of mothers have tried to get their cases exposed by talking with reporters about the very same broken system, the media repeatedly turn a blind eye and claim that they don't get into "he said, she said" squabbles between ex-spouses. Enough of the sexist coverage already!

Anyone who thinks that women have an unfair advantage in family court is extremely uninformed, and you should be sure to check out the websites of the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, Center for Judicial Excellence, California Protective Parents Association, Mothers of Lost Children, Child Abuse Solutions, Inc., Stop Family Violence, Justice for Children, Battered Mothers Custody Conference, California NOW, New York State NOW, Protective Mothers Alliance, and the list goes on.

What Arianas is going through is downright criminal, and it deserves to be exposed, yet this story does a real disservice to the thousands of mothers who are losing custody of their precious children each and every day in family court because they are reporting sexual and physical abuse of their kids by their fathers. How hard would it have been for Gilmore to be more balanced in her article by mentioning even ONCE that mothers are being screwed by the system as well, instead of always quoting fathers rights activists?

I expect more from the East Bay Express. I strongly urge you to give equal coverage to the stories of East Bay moms who are suffering at the hands of unaccountable judges.

Posted by MomsScrewedToo on January 13, 2010 at 1:58 PM

I would take it steps higher than that commissioner an report this to internal affairs a higher an higher until my voice is heard. An Haward has a f@cked up system that is based off race an age. Because I had problems with them too strereotyping too. I also suggest that you go file at a court in Richmond, an try to get this covered by as many news channels that you can. An keep all your paper work. Write a letter to governor of California don't stop until your voice is heard. There's no way in hell that her boyfriend should have got that less of time. You need to call internal affairs about that too. I am very sorry that your son has to go through this.

Posted by Tawana on January 13, 2010 at 3:32 PM

  Judge Gerald Rosenberg has ruined many lives with his corruption. The American public needs to wake up to what really happens in our courts. Until you witness it, you just are blissfully oblivious to how awful and scary the American Legal system really is.

Posted by samsee on January 13, 2010 at 5:39 PM

  My wife and I are co-directors of a large preventive intervention project sponsored by the Office of Child Abuse Prevention in California. The goal is to help fathers, especially low-income fathers become more involved and stay more involved with their children. It is tragic that while one arm of the State is attempting to encourage fathers' involvement with their children, another arm of the State is making it as difficult as possible.

Posted by Father involvement researcher on January 13, 2010 at 6:15 PM

  For many years we have seen fights in the court system between mothers and fathers trying to obtain custody of a child. But in this case we see how f@cked up the system is ! When a father like Arianas tries to give a better life to his son, away from violence and prostitution. He is denied of this opportunity. How blind can commissioner Hendrickson be??? the mother has been arrested for prostitution, has had her son around a felon and obviously does not care enough about her son to even show up at the court hearings. But she is the best fit to take care of the child? yes I agree that a lot of women have gone thru the same issue, and continue fighting .But this is a man that has not stopped fighting for his son. a man that could of easily walked away from it all and paid child support. but he instead continues to fight for something that he should of already been given. FULL CUSTODY FOR HIS SON! what has to happen before he can be granted full custody? does someone always have to get hurt before the system sees that they were wrong? a mother is not always the best fit to take care of a child! it takes a lot more to be a mother, than just going thru the physical labor. a mother should be caring loving and make sure that no harm comes to her child. something that this mother is obviously not capable of doing!

Posted by king36 on January 13, 2010 at 7:49 PM

  Over the past few months of reacquainting myself with Arianas, I've witnessed a compassion, rage and faith for his son. I never knew the true details to his story until today and my admiration is forever growing. I watched as his heart was once again hurt, because he was unable to see his child on Christmas. I watched as he has explained the happy moments spent with his son the weekends he's allowed to see him and I watched now as he has campaigns for people to read his story and be a supporter in his case.

Too many times in our society do father's abandon their responsibilities. Allowed to leave, not looking back until the child is bitter and broken. With Arianas he has only proven his loyalty to provide and protect for his son. Going up against the odds; that society says a black father should be, going up against the broken men in family court, whom are suppose to be Our elders and encouragers, going up against the odds of being a young black man PERIOD, going up against the odds of an unfair family court system and going against the odds of a renegade Judge who for some reason can't get past…appearance? It doesn't seem to be that the facts are even a concern.

Arianas will continue to have support from his family, his attorney and amongst his peers. Kind words and encouragement are dished out daily in attempt to assist a almost hopeless cause. Tyberius deserves to be with the one who Loves, cares and will DO ANYTHING for him…Arianas has proven that to me…

Posted by mo07jo on January 13, 2010 at 10:42 PM

  You know if either or both of you could sit down and breathe for a bit - the arguing and the tension is so unhealthy for your child. Have you tried some kind of mediation/counseling outside the legal system?

Seems like the third party always forcing its decision down everyone's throat is a very bad influence on a relationship that is going to last as long as your child is alive.

Please get some help outside the court system, something compassionate and confidential. I sincerely wish for healing for you both, and a chance for your beautiful son to grow up with two loving parents.

Yes, the court system is abusive. Step outside of it for a while and things will get better.

Posted by singlemom on January 14, 2010 at 4:29 AM

  I too have been screwed by the Alameda "family" court system - which is NOT a family court. The judges rotate like lawn furniture, which is part of the problem. I had 2 custody evaluations and asked only for my LEGAL 50% custody. But women and unscrupulous lawyers will throw the "abusive' charge out, and then you are in the dog house FOREVER - trying to prove a negative. It is the one thing you are guilty of without it legally being proven. There is also a totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL law on the CA books that says if one side of a COURT ORDERED custody evaluation does not want that entered into evidence, it will NOT be considered in a custody trial. OK, fathers - and mothers for that matter - who have been screwed by "family" court it is high time to stand up and DEMAND change. I would love for Erin Gilmore to look into my case. Thanks for the article and I hope something positive comes from it. Oh and by the way these "judges" are supposed to be reconfirmed by election - do NOT vote for them! Any fathers or mothers who have been poorly treated in court should WRITE LETTERS before each election and kick these lazy, bias incompetent "judges" off the bench.


Posted by spicytunaroll on January 14, 2010 at 10:11 AM

  I do not want to comment on this case in particular because there just isn't enough information contained in the article. However, all parents have rights to be a part of their children's lives. Prostitutes can be perfectly good parents and so can bank robbers. If the state removed every child from areas with gunshots because it is dangerous for kids then there would be millions more children in foster care. Ideally in my opinion "family court" should be abolished and replaced with a non confrontational system where both parents have equal rights regardless of financial, employment, health or any other status currently used by the courts to dictate controls. As long as the parent isn't blatantly harming a child any parent deserves joint custody. If there is a perceived problem with one or both parents then there needs to be a timely method to correct the concern. Currently the crawling pace of "family court" allows the plaintiff to maintain custody for years at a time before a resolution is ordered. The children suffer the most under the current dysfunctional system. I know that this current system will never change because there are too many people including attorneys, judges and mediators making lots of money out of the disarray caused by this adversarial system. I can only dream of a better way I can't change this system. I was personally victimized twice by this system but my children suffered more than I did. Now as adults we can talk about it but what's done is done. Think long and hard before you enter this "system". Settle your problems out of court if you really love your children because all the children get hurt once "family court" gets involved Good luck.

Posted by jimfrogs on January 14, 2010 at 1:51 PM

  Oh man… you can see the problem unfolding right before your eyes on here… I posted before but I am going to chime in one more time because you are seeing in these posts exactly what happens when people end up in "family" court. First, I agree with every comment about staying OUT of the "family" court system that is unless you want to make a lot of lawyers and doctors rich. However it only takes one parent to make a custody battle a nightmare. The mother and/or some of her friends are obviously using this bulletin board to smear the father in the article. That in-and-of-itself tells a lot about the 2 parties involved. Think about it, only people with no valid argument resort to character assassination. I should know because that is the SAME tactics that are being used against me in court. Make accusation after accusation in "family" court, and guess what - IT WORKS, SADLY of course. There are web sites devoted to it (see In my opinion if the mother declined to be interviewed and instead you see posts on here making accusations about the father - that speaks for it self… Unfortunately, as I said in my other post, all a woman has to do is make accusations and a man is screwed in "family" court. To the father, my words of wisdom: don't engage in it, and get yourself a video camera to protect yourself. Look at what happened in the BART shooting case.

Posted by spicytunaroll on January 14, 2010 at 4:20 PM

  Good reporting! We ex-Berkeleyans, now living in Oregon, find this to be the kind of article that keeps us reading the East Bay Express.

Posted by hammer on January 14, 2010 at 10:36 PM

  This was a really good piece. Thank you EastBay Express and Erin Gilmore. I hear these types of stories all the time and the more we can shed public light the better. Please keep calling out the people responsible for creating this type of injustice.

I happen to know Arianas personally and I know him as I kind hearted soul. I do not know anything about this specific situation, but I do know a "peice of sh@t father" (and there are plenty out there) does not fight this hard for their son. Keep fighting! The mother had the opportunity to share her side.
A word of advice to Ms. Self and those defending her, using language such as: "F@ck everyone", "f@cking idiot", "piece of sh@t", "fake-ass", "faulty ass", "snitch" and "punk" is really not helping her image as a mother.

Posted by interested reader on January 15, 2010 at 12:32 PM

  I agree with one thing in this article - the family court system is broken. The status quo of injustice in the family courts is staunchly defended by the very bad actors who cause the injustice and are enriched by it. It's a cottage industry of greedy people who make a handsome living ruining the lives of the innocent victims, mostly the children. Whenever I see a reporter resort to quoting a zealous father's rights activist like Sachs, I know for certain the story is going to be biased. I don't know the facts in this case, so I can't comment on the outcome, but I do know that Sach's claim that courts are biased against fathers is false, and has been proven false in several peer reviewed research studies, as another commenter stated previously. The fathers' rights legal industry is a big money making business, but there are no mothers' rights law firms that I know of, and I've been following this injustice for almost a decade. Why? Mothers don't control the purse strings in most families. Even though there are laws on the books that prevent one party from dissipating marital assets in a divorce, and starving their spouse out of a legal defense, they aren't enforced on behalf of women. One commentator here said something very revealing about what I believe to be the underlying truth in this story. They said that the father used to have total control over the mother in the beginning. My suspicion, if this case is like THOUSANDS of others across the country, is that he is furious that he no longer can control her, and he's using the child to try to control her. Another commentator said something that I've been saying for years - it only takes ONE to wage a custody battle. Now in this case, it sounds like there are two parties tango-ing here, but that is not always the case. In virtually every custody case that I have reviewed, the father was abusive and controlling in the relationship. He uses the court room as a tool to continue to control and abuse the mother. And it is absolutely FALSE that women make up allegations of abuse in order to win custody - the opposite is true, thanks to "friendly parent" provisions put into law by fathers' rights advocates. These status put an abused woman in a catch 22 situation. If she discloses the abuse, she stands to lose custody to the "friendlier" parent. If she doesn't disclose the abuse, she may lose custody anyway, especially if the father has money. It's a shame that the media continues to buy into this myth about bias against fathers in family court. Fatherhood supremacists continue to spread this myth without evidence, as if the truth is in the telling - if you say it often enough, people will believe it. The truth is that mothers by the THOUSANDS are losing custody of their children based on friendly parent statutes and bogus legal strategies like "parental alienation", and children are being placed into the hands of their abusers. When fathers disobey court orders, nothing happens. When mothers do, in defense of their children, they get thrown in jail by civil court judges, without benefit of a trial, or a jury of her peers. Judges put gag orders on women to prevent them from talking to the media. The only way we're going to fix this broken system is to put caps on what the attorneys and psychologists, social workers, etc. are paid in scandalous custody cases. You'd be amazed how quickly the "bias" will disappear.

Posted by 4RKids on January 15, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Posted by formalbiz on January 16, 2010 at 8:32 AM

  This isn't just a fathers issue and until everyone is on the same page as that there will never be any justice for any children!

Posted by SteveO09 on January 16, 2010 at 8:41 AM

  It is unfortunate that at the end of the day the only one that truly suffers is the child. The fact of the matter is this father sees his only son exposed to countless dangerous situations an like any good father he wants to protect him. His determination and love for his son needs to be applauded. scoot, real talk you are doing a great job just keep fighting. 1 luv

Posted by dnTTrip on January 16, 2010 at 9:34 AM

  My husband has been in the Hayward Family Court with his ex-wife for 8 years and we have gotten nowhere. We have $30,000 in lawyer bills which compound when the mothers attorney will not sign court orders and the Judge will not sign after the waiting period. hey big Surprise we have Commissioner Hendrickson also. She is a man HATER and it isn't racial because my husband is white, it is just a man thing. The mother in this case is mentally abusive and the child begged not to live with her and Commissioner Hendrickson allowed the child to stay with the mother until this summer when we took our case and started complaining to ANYONE who would listen. We were granted custody, but not child support, in fact we have to pay the mother $650 a month because she DOESN'T WORK and when custody was changed the Commissioner didn't find it necessary to change the child support, so now we have custody and have to pay for the child also. Just because we have custody doesn't mean that we have won. The judge has our whole life mapped out for us, all of us in our home, child, me and my husband have to go to counseling which costs $1000 a month the mother gets to tell us what to do with the child when we have him and she NEVER has followed any court order in the 8 years. We have over 200 police reports that she refused to bring him for visitations and the court refuses to listen and in fact has given her more time with the child that we ever got which leaves him in a constant state of unrest visiting her mentally ill house and then trying to come back to sanity here. Something must be done about this Commissioner, she is ruining peoples lives. I must say that I have always supported my husband in being involved in his sons life, at times pushing him, but I completely understand why fathers are dead beats, it is because they do not want to FIGHT mentally ill mothers who focus on every little thing. Let your children live and love freely, be glad that they have 2 parents or more to love them….we get 100 emails a week from my husbands ex telling us all of the stuff that we do wrong…one thing that we do right is school, our child has the best grades ever since moving with us and while we do not have a court date set for the future, we anticipate the mother taking us back for custody ASAP and I pray that Commissioner Hendrickson is either GONE for good or really thinks about what is in the best interest of the child and STOP trying to appease the mothers. Children need their fathers, perhaps the reason that Ms., Self in this case doesn't have her life in order is because she was raised by a single mother…not saying that is a bad thing, but kids NEED THEIR FATHERS, my children need their father too, which is why I could never imagine ending up in a situation like this. Mothers need to start loving their children more than they hate their ex, it isn't about the adults, it is about the child. Stand up for what it right and fight until the end, it almost caused us to file bankruptcy, but there is a change that SOME day it will end in your favor…..for all of the other fathers out there FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT… your son will know that you did it for him and he will resent his mom for keeping you from him, just know that EVERY SINGLE day of the rest of your life will be a FIGHT, even if you get custody like we did… there is always a FIGHT. Good luck and god bless.

Posted by youdlvoetoknow on January 23, 2010 at 9:49 AM

This comment goes to the mother and father, if either of you cared for your child you would find a way to resolve this matter and focus all the attention on making this child have a beautiful, happy and prosperous life.

The fighting is sending nothing but pain for this beautiful young man. He deserves better, he deserves both his parents. A father's love is different from a mother's love and a mother's love is different from a father's love, a child needs both.

I don't agree with all that has been said and published. Yet as a mother this needs to end for the child's sake, please stop now!

For father I understand that you want to be heard and there is nothing wrong with being heard, but my question to you is why exploit your toddler by placing his picture in the article, what about him? He will grow up in this community with this over his head forever, was it necessary to put his picture in the paper? You have showed that you are a good father. Mother has made mistakes why not help her instead of tear her down and make her lose everything. At one point of time you loved her. Why can't you and mother work out the best interest for your son together, is it necessary that the child be dragged through the mud just to get back at one another?

For Mother your response shows immaturity if you were going to respond you should have cooled off, sat down and thought before typing. Words of wisdom if you want to be heard speak with intelligence this is a battle for your child. Don't let what's printed in the paper cause you to lose focus on why you are commenting or just don't comment at all. You must remember that the public eye is on you. Your child trusts you to guide him into righteousness. If you are speaking like this what are you teaching your child? How can you expect him to show respect if you don't. The paper states that you refused to give your say and you used those choice words. Think about what you are saying and most of all think of your son. Just as I stated in my comment for the Father at one point you loved him and thought he would be the best father for your son. Find a way to work things out for the sake of that beautiful baby boy he deserves it.

Posted by Amotherside on January 28, 2010 at 9:32 PM

  This story is why our country is going to hell in a hand basket. Like so many of our failing systems, the judicial system is also due for an overhaul. Many judges are detached elitists with no care or concern for children, families, or the truth for that matter. They are bleeding heart liberals with a one sided view that sides with the mother because they want to be politically correct. My sincere hope and prayer is that they are exposed for what and who they are. As for organizations such as Fathers and Families fighting for father's rights and keeping the issue of injustice done to responsible and loving fathers, I applaud you and your efforts. Women who are mothers can be vindictive, manipulative and vengeful toward their ex-husbands and want to punish them and the prejudiced liberal judges take their sides. There are many good men who want to be fathers to their children and it's time the pendulum swung back to accommodate the deserving dads. There are irresponsible fathers out there who aren't good parents, but don't punish the good ones and destroy the children in the meantime. Lack of fathering is why we have so many angry, disturbed and lost children in our society and the court is a big part of the problem. This story proves it.

Posted by jaseri on February 2, 2010 at 1:25 PM

  I willingly put my name at the top of this comment. I am TOM DEAL, and I have appeared before Hendrickson who has shown herself to be both incompetent and dishonest. She has mis-quoted relevant law, always contrary to my best interests as a father, and she has lied about being recused for failing to answer a Judicial Challenge within the statutory 10 days. She has received the only "F" rating for a commissioner, can't seem to keep the facts straight, and doesn't care. She has delayed hearing all of my Orders to Show Cause for failing to provide evidence, my children, property, etc (one filed in 2004, still unresolved in 2010!) but advanced a 13 count Contempt charge against me. She choked when she had to find me "not guilty" on 11 of them, and openly read from the long list of possible reasons to install a restraining order, before stretching the truth to use the last possible reason to keep me from my children for 5 more years. She has ignored existing orders by other courts, misstated the content of existing orders, misunderstood clear statements of facts, and cannot distinguish between two motions filed on different dates, with different titled, and for different purposes.

She is not elected, but, as a commissioner, only under contract and can be reported to the Bar association, who will not take any action because they are a bunch of lawyers, making money by abusing children.

I think that it's time to ignore the Court, and do what's right. Who was it that said that violence is not the answer? The American patriots during the Revolutionary war? The soldiers in Iraq? My fellow soldiers in Viet Nam? The federal government? Those who overthrew Idi Amin and Chauchetchu? (sp?) Those who overthrew the French monarchy? Those who advocate for "open carry" as a deterrence to crime? Those who practice "law" at the expense of families, and especially father's rights? Or is it those who feel safe doing what is openly contrary to the public trust?

In my experience, I would prefer bloodless revolution, but I believe that kidnapping, even by judges order, is a capital offense against the public trust, and torture of fathers must become a thing of the past, starting today.

To be clear, I have been tortured for 10 years by a women shown to be hysterical and an obsessive liar, while my psych tests are very normal, given the circumstances. I also drive around with a car top sign that says: "HOW CROOKED IS DIVORCE COURT IN ALAMEDA COUNTY? TELL YOUR STORY AT www.DADDYDEAL.INFO "

I'm going to call Supervisor Steele right now, and offer my services. We can fix this, and I don't expect it to be easy or without risk. In this post-O.J backlash, I support "MR." - "MEN'S RIGHTS PERIOD".

Posted by Daddy Deal on February 2, 2010 at 2:16 PM

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